Sunday, 8 November 2015

Long Term Review - Aldi (Crane) Cycling Jacket

Crane breathable and waterproof cycling jacket
Length of testing: about 6 weeks so far (since late September 2015)
Price: About 20 pounds ($31, 26 Euros)
From: My local Aldi store, during one of their periodic cycling promotions

  1. Colour/Color - I was looking for a yellow waterproof jacket for cycling . Some folks insist on being dressed in black, and they profoundly believe that colour makes no difference to safety, but they are profoundly wrong. Get a nice, bright, jacket! I sometimes wear red in daylight, but when it gets dim it really has to be yellow or white.
  2. Waterproof - I am not a maniac for cycling in the rain, but, hey, I live in a country where it rains quite a bit (Gulf Stream and edge of a continental shelf and all that!). 
  3. Breathable - I get mighty sweaty when climbing the local Category 3 hill, especially on the sections that exceed a 10 % gradient.
  4. Two large side zip-vents - each zip vent is about 9 inches (22 cm long) when unzipped, and I often leave them open. Let some of the heat (and sweat) out! I have the "extra large" size jacket, and I suspect the length of the side openings will be a bit shorter in the smaller sizes of jacket!
  5. Five rear vents - these run right across the back, level with the bottom of the sleeves where they join the "body" of the jacket. The material has about a 3/4 inch (18mm) overlap at this point, to keep out the rain when the wind is behind you.
  6. Two zip pockets - maybe it is just me, but I like to keep my house key and my 'phone in different pockets! Nothing like a doorkey and a phone in the same pocket to scratch your screen! Yes, you can get a 'phone cover, and yes, you can get a little mini-wallet for your key, but wouldn't it just be better to have more than one zip pocket?
  7. Windproof front and cuffs - you can zip the jacket up to keep the wind out on cold days, or on fast descents. There is a flap that covers the zip, and is secured with a stud at the top and bottom, and three velcro pads in between. The cuffs have a velcro fastener, so they can be done up quite tight to keep the wind from going up your sleeves!
  8. Fleece collar - helps to keep rain and wind from going down the back of your neck.
  9. Waist drawstring - for those who like such things
  10. Decent arm length - I am one of those folks who has extra-long arms - my "wingspan" is about 2 inches (50cm) greater than my height (and at 6 foot 2 inches, 188cm, I'm not short!), so I tend to find many clothes a bit short in the arms, unless a "long and tall" size is available. This jacket could be an inch longer in the arms, but it is good enough with a pair of "winter" cycling gloves on. Better fit than most for a "mass-market" product, without having to buy a HUGE chest size so that I can hang the sholders over a bit.
  11. Can also be used for running - when you are on a limited budget, multi-use equipment is quite useful. I regularly jog in this jacket, although the dipped rear hemline does remind me a little of those '60's "mod" jackets ...
  12. Medium-weight - I weighed it on my wife's cooking scales (shh, don't say anything), and the jacket weighed in at 440g (15.5 ounces). Again, I have the "extra large" size, so those of you that are smaller are likely to find a jacket in your size is a touch lighter.
  13. Well-priced - I doubt you will find a better jacket in this price range. I recently spent a bit of time in the Decathlon store in Oxford, and they had some super-light jackets that looked a bit flimsy, some more expensive mid-weight jackets with vents in the front (!), as well as in the back, that looked to me likely to let the rain in, and some deluxe jackets that cost about 4 times as much as this one!
I'll update this review over time as I have to share with you.
Tbh, I've mostly used it for jogging, although I did wear it to the dentist's a couple of days ago (yes, I cycled), and the rain really belted down half-way. the jacket performed admirably, although it was only about a 15 minute trip, so that doesn't say a lot one way or the other about how the jacket would perform in sustained heavy rain for hours on end! On the way home it had stopped raining.
As a running jacket, it performs pretty well, and I keep the front zipped up to keep off the wind-chill, but run with the side zips open except on really cold days.
Although I commute to work everyday, I wear a "company" jacket with a high-viz "vest" over it, so I got this jacket just for my own use.
And, so far, I'm VERY pleased with it!

Fleecy collar to keep the wind from going down your neck!

Rear vents below the shoulders. and a
single large rear pocket

Mexh lining in body and sleeves.
Handy front pocket for a key or a 'phone

Bright colour, with some
retro-reflector highlights

Large side zip-vents on both sides - about 9 inches (22cm) long.

Waist drawstring and velcro cuffs allow the jacket to be tightened up to keep the wind out.
Note the dropped rear, which is longer than the front.
Helps cover the lower back when hunched over a bike.
Update 24th November 2015:
First, an apology. I wrongly listed this as bought from Lidl. It was, of course, bought from their great rival Aldi. I have now corrected the section that mentioned Lidl.

I've worn the coat for a few late-Autumn jogging sessions.
I like the colour, which stands out on dark evenings (it is often dark when we go running).
I tend to start the session all zipped up, then as I warm up, I first undo the side zips, then the collar, then slowly undo the front zip as required.
I ran 10 km on Sunday before lunch, and I got quite sweaty. When I put the coat back on after lunch for a short interval running session with Anna, the sweat in the arms had gone cold, and it rather reminded me of putting on a cold wetsuit. Not very pleasant. This is despite the mesh lining being in the arms as well as in the body.
After about 10 minutes into the second session, my cold sweat warmed up, and the jacket was comfortable again.

Which brings me to the issue of breathability.
Breathability is a very variable thing, rather than just a yes/no thing.
I found during that 10km run that the breathability of the jacket was less than the rate at which I was producing sweat on the inside, so the moisture built up in the sleeves.
The fact that I was wearing a short-sleeved underlayer on both runs may have contributed to this, as my arms were directly in contact with the mesh lining.

On a bike, I tend not to get sweaty arms (do you?), but it is my back that gets sweaty. On the two runs I mentioned above (the 10 km run and the 3.5 km interval session), I found that the "body" was better, although my two underlayers were a bit sweaty after the 10 km run.
But then gain, a lot of the 10 km run was at more than 75% of my max heart rate, and the last couple of km were more like 85 of my maximum heart rate. I tend not to cycle at such sustained high work-loads (which is one of the reasons I also run!), so the jacket will probably perform better on a bike.
I guess I should have put on an even thinnner jacket for running :-)

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